Paradigm Paralysis

It’s only in recognizing that you have become a slave to powerful controlling forces that you
have a chance of awakening.  Doc Roberts

A paradigm is defined as a framework of thought or belief which explains a certain aspect of reality.  While serving as a method of understanding reality, in the process, paradigms begin to not only limit, but will eventually obstruct new, less conventional ways of viewing the world.  We in essence become paralyzed by these current cultural paradigms. Paradigm paralysis colors our interpretations, perceptions, behaviors, interpersonal interactions, goals and values, our self-concept and even our very thought processes.  Paradigms once established, obstruct the possibility of new perceptions of who we are.

Science has evolved throughout the centuries as old paradigms, no longer able to explain new evidence, were finally replaced with new paradigms.  Though the introduction of new paradigms met with considerable resistance at first, eventually these were adopted and a shift occurred in the then present level of understanding, establishing new, more comprehensive paradigms for perceiving and understanding reality.  Remember when people thought the earth was flat?

The end result of paradigm paralysis is an automatization of perception, thought and behavior, in other words, a ‘consensus trance’ ensues.  Society’s customs, prohibitions, and conventions enforce a kind of social repression by establishing specific cognitive categories [paradigms] by which every individual is expected to order their conception of the world.  This resulting paralysis is therefore a product of a socially conditioned filtering process that allows some thoughts to be consciously entertained, while other thoughts are forced out of our awareness.  This filtering process operates through the language of our culture, shaping our perception of reality.  These paradigms pre-determine what we actually attend to, while filtering out other possible ways of perceiving.

We are subtly convinced from childhood that this narrowed kind of perception is not only the real and only way of seeing the world, but also it determines our very basic sensation of who we are as a conscious being. We become fully hypnotized by this disjointed vision of the universe. The result is an entranced, hypnotic, sleep-like state (the walking dead), while all the time, we’re totally convinced in our mind, that our particular view of reality is the only real one.

It is these cognitive mindsets (paradigms) that lead to the formation of a state created early in life that has been called “mindlessness” or consensus trace.  Mindlessness sets in when we rely rigidly on categories and distinctions created in the past (masculine/feminine, old/young, success/failure).  We build our own and our shared realities and then we become victims to them — blind to the fact that they are just socially agreed upon constructs.

Paradigms, culturally determined, create selective attention. Unconsciously we attend to information about our experience that is congruent with these pre-determined paradigms. Other ways of perceiving and understanding do not even enter our awareness and are consequently filtered out. What we consider real is not based on what is actually observed, but on what we are prepared in advance to see. 

To get it closer to home, our prevailing culture does not acknowledge (other than just words) the existence of the Self (capital S), the truth behind the appearances. It also does not acknowledge the fact that every individual has a calling and a unique potential that will allow them to succeed in their own special way. We rarely discuss and certainly don’t attempt to understand what it means to be using more of our human potential and how to allow that to unfold, that is, except in pre-established, habituated ways.

However, it gets even more interesting. Evidence for the existence and functioning of paradigms has been uncovered on the neuro-physiological level.  These “master codes” as they are referred to, delimit the experience of self, the overall reality orientation and all mental processing regarding the interaction between self and reality. What we attend to, pretty much what we are aware of in each moment, is totally regulated by these master codes. Further, these pre-selected attention patterns habituate, and continue to strengthen, while other possible avenues of perception are excluded. In other words, what we attend to grows stronger! We get comfortable seeing life a certain way, seeing ourselves a certain way and it gets harder and harder as we grow older to see that something else might be possible.

We’re all indoctrinated into this “business of living” or consensus trance. Almost exclusively, we focus on issues related to survival (real or imagined), on image and appearance and on achieving the pre-ordained symbols of material success. At the same time, what is not encouraged, even completely ignored, is our drive to self-actualize and develop to our full  individual potential. Any wonder why so many people experience symptoms of quiet desperation?

As this habituation occurs, we continue to lose our sense of awe and wonder, our freshness of appreciation, our passion and our openness to new ways of seeing life, even our ability to excel in our own unique way. Instead, we learn to respond to life in pre-programmed, rigid ways. This all occurs outside of our conscious awareness. So as we become socialized in childhood, we emerge into adulthood already conditioned and quite naturally enter the ranks of what I like to call the walking dead!

Abraham Maslow presents one of the more poignant descriptions of this conditioning process and the subsequent inhibition of the drive to self-actualize:

Since others are so important and vital for the helpless baby and child, fear of losing them (as providers of safety, food, love, respect, etc.) is a primal, terrifying danger.  Therefore, the child, faced with a difficult choice between his own delight experiences [urge to self actualize, to be fully alive] and the experience of approval from others, must generally choose approval from others, and then handle his delight by repression or letting it die, or not noticing it or controlling it by willpower.  In general, along with this will develop a disapproval of the delight experience, or shame or embarrassment and secretiveness about it, with finally, the inability even to experience it. . . . From now on he will be torn apart by compulsive (unconscious) needs or ground by (unconscious) conflicts into paralysis, every motion and every instant canceling out his being, his integrity; and all the while he is disguised as a normal person and expected to behave like one!

This business of living takes full precedence over realizing our greater potential. Essentially, we’re  taught to be ‘normal’, to somehow be someone other than who we actually are. Certain potentials are awarded, others inhibited. Certain goals are reinforced, others denied.

Our most precious attention has been engineered by our culture. Many groups are involved in this socialization process — parents, schools, churches, banks, merchants, manufacturers, advertisers and merchandisers. Our attention is directed to what has been predetermined by our culture, to socially approved paradigms.

Stagnation and mediocrity are simply the outcome of denying our truth, as we deny our deepest passions, we allow ourselves to live beneath our potential and only serve the purposes of others and society.

A transformation represents fundamentally a paradigm shift, a break from conventional ways of understanding ourselves and our world. We begin to see life anew.  This is the substance of Breakthrough Psychology — how to identify, question and then break free of paradigms that have constricted us.

The path of awakening asks of us to simply commit to being a fully alive and fully functioning human being, living from the passion of our own convictions and expressing our truth. To accomplish this task, what so relatively few in our society actually do, is to learn to recognize and breakthrough the mass consensus trance of our culture. It requires that we no longer simply follow old habit patterns and cultural mindsets blindly. This absolutely requires commitment and the courage to follow our heart, to do what we deeply love and know what we wish to create in our life.

You’re one of those individuals. It’s why you are here, now, reading these words.

Awakening dawns when you start to see what is happening within you that is keeping you stagnant and living a life of mediocrity. While we are all entranced, raised in this society to perceive life in certain culturally approved ways, living out purposes not our own, we can wake up. We stagnate because we’ve learned to repress our spirit and creative passions. Good news is, it only takes focusing your attention in a specific way to begin to dis-identify and de-condition in order to recapture your true essence. This is the content of my Breakthrough to Brilliance Course and I invite you to join the growing ranks of those choosing to wake up and take charge of their lives.

“There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming.” Soren Keriegaard

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